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Index  >  Arts > Theater: Sammy! - The word that broke an empire

Theater: Sammy! - The word that broke an empire

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Cover front Sammy! Mahindra AwardSammy!
The word that broke an empire

A play in two acts by
Partap Sharma

Directed by
Lillete Dubey

Primetime Theatre Company, Mumbai

From man to Mahatma
Sammy! is the incredible story of Mahatma Gandhi, told by an ensemble of actors in a modern and exciting manner. Led by a lively debate between Mohandas, the man, and the irrepressible Mahatma in him, the play highlights Gandhi's relationships and how he changed everyone he touched.

It traces the transformation of the young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from a naive, tongue-tied lawyer into a shrewd politician and finally a Mahatma and recounts his story from his earliest days in South Africa to his final assassination.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an extraordinary man about whom Einstein once said Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one once walked upon the earth! The play aims to bring alive a man whose influence changed politics forever (and set in motion the journey of others like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King). With its dynamic style of presentation it hopes to straddle a large cross section of audiences, especially younger ones, who know him only from dusty textbooks!

The play is important not just as a powerful piece of theatre, but is specially relevant because of the times we live in, where the Mahatma's creed of non materialism and non violence is sorely needed in an age of terrorism and consumerism.

The title of the play is easily explained and becomes clear in the early part of the action. The word Sammy, along with the word coolie, was used as a derogatory term by the whites in South Africa to insult Indians and other coloured people. It originates from the word swami, which actually means master or guru. When he first hears an angry mob in Durban shouting the word as an insult to describe him, the young Mohan smiles and ventures the hope that he may, some day, be able to live up to it.

Sammy! is the result of several years of research on Mahatma Gandhi by Partap Sharma.

Lillete Dubey
An actress on stage as well as in film and television, Lillete Dubey is also producer and artistic director of her own theatre company The Primetime Theatre Co. She formed the company in 1991 with the intention of promoting original Indian writing and has directed 21 productions for it so far. Three of these have received the Sahitya Kola Parishad Award for Best Play of the Year. The company's productions have travelled widely in India and abroad. They have played at the Bloomsbury Theatre and at Waterman's in London, at the Tribeca in New York, at the Portland International Performance Festival, at the Actors Studio in Kuala Lampur, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in Singapore, Colombo, Hong Kong, Dubai and most of the major cities on the United States.

She has performed varied roles in theatre and film, inclusing Zubeida, Monsoon Wedding, Gaddar, Baghban, Pinjar, Kal Ho Na Ho, Chalte Chalte. She is currently completing three films and is hosting her own weekly show on television.
She just won Best Director Award for Sammy! at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards Festival 2006 in New Delhi.

Partap Sharma
Partap Sharma is a playwright, novelist, actor, documentary film-maker, commentator and author of children's books. His books have been published in India, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada.

Among the ten full-length plays he has written are the acclaimed works A Touch of Brightness, Begum Sumroo and Zen Katha. Sammy! is his most recent play. As an actor Partap Sharma has played the lead roles in five feature films and won the National Award in 1971 for his performance in the Hindi film Phir Bhi. He also played the role of Nehru in the film Nehru: Jewel of India.
As a famous Indian commentator and narrator, he is known as the golden voice of India and was honoured in April 2004 with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.

Cover back Sammy! With the success of leading companies like Primetime Theatre Co. which aim to promote works of Indian playwrights, Indian theatre in English has come of age and is a cultural force in contemporary India. Sammy! has played in cities, factories and companies all over the country in English and in Hindi.
Partap Sharma's plays, often based on historical and philosophical themes, bring a new clarity to core concepts in Indian thought and put them in a contemporary setting. Sammy! unfolds the depth and the strength of the ancient concept of nonviolence, the aim of which was to cleanse the body and mind of negative forces and attachments in order to achieve the core objective of knowledge, enlightenment and liberation (from re-birth). The play makes us unlearn and learn anew the meanings of words like truth, purity, sacrifice. And yet the context is one where Gandhi is looking for liberation for a whole nation.
Primetime Theatre Company took up the challenge of producing this fast moving and complex play which has played to great acclaim across India to a wide and varied audience.


Act 1  
Dada Abdulla Vikrant Chaturvedi 
Mohan  Joy Sen Gupta 
Mahatma  Ravi Dubey 
Aasvogel  Denzil Smith 
Official Zafar Karachiwala
First Man Asif Ali Beg
Second Man Zafar Karachiwala
Mrs. Alexander Anuradha Menon
Kasturba Pravishi Das
Polak Asif Ali Beg
Medic Vikrant Chaturvedi
Smuts Zafar Karachiwala
ADC Asif Ali Beg

Act 2  
Sarojini Anuradha Menon
Shukla  Vikrant Chaturvedi 
Jawahar  Zafar Karachiwala 
Jinnah  Vikrant Chaturvedi 
Viceroy Denzil Smith 
Clancy Asif Ali Beg
First Journalist Zafar Karachiwala
Second Journalist Anuradha Menon
Man Asif Ali Beg
Woman Anuradha Menon
Godse Vikrant Chaturvedi
Pahwa Asif Ali Beg


Assistant Director Ira Dubey
Lightning Designer Inaayat Ali Sami
Set Designer  Bhola Sharma 
Costume designers  Trishna Popat 
  Aarti Khanna 
Original Music Score Mahesh Tinaikar

Duration: 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission.

The play had its premiere on July 30, 2005 at Tata Theatre NCPA, Mumbai.

This production has been made possible by the Aditya Birla Group and the support of Mrs. Rajashri Birla.

This play is available for production, contact mail at

Reading sample

Tour dates:
Upto Dec 2006 (doc)
February 6 - 18, 2007, London, UK (pdf)

The Times of India, 11 August 2005     The Times of India, 30 July 2005     Mid-Day, 13 July 2005    

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